Friday, January 8, 2016

Walker hints at more self-inflicted pain on Transportation

Our fair Governor has been making the rounds this week with hand-picked interviews trying to convince the public that things are OK in Wisconsin as 2016 begins. And in the process of one of those interviews with, Walker may have just committed a major gaffe on transportation funding that has angered politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Gov. Scott Walker suggested in an interview Thursday the state could simply spend less on roadwork in his next budget considering his pledge to not raise taxes or fees without an offset and the reluctance of lawmakers to continue bonding….

Walker noted his 2017-19 budget is still more than a year out, and revenues could pick up by then. But he said his bottom line on transportation is he won't support a gas tax or registration fee increase unless there is a tax cut elsewhere, vowing to stick to a pledge he made during his 2014 re-election campaign.

"When you do it under that context, one of the options is -- if people don't want to borrow and they're not willing to raise the gas tax -- is to adjust the plans in terms of how much money is spent on projects going forward," Walker said.
In other words, Walker wants to go down the same foolish path he had laid out in his last proposed budget, which offered no fee or gas tax increases, but instead proposed $1.3 billion in borrowing to continue various road projects. That amount of borrowing angered many Republicans in the Legislature, and was a big reason why the budget was held up past the July 1 start of the Fiscal Year, despite complete Republican control of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office.

Eventually a compromise to allow for $500 million in borrowing was reached in the final 2015-17 budget, but that (ahem) “adjustment in plans in terms of how much money was to be spent to projects” meant delays on numerous key expressway and maintenance projects. That wasn’t acceptable either, and the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee went along with Gov Walker’s request to borrow another $350 million in November.

Now Walker’s statements sets things up for a repeat of the DOT’s budget problems for 2017-19, and 2 GOP members of Joint Finance expressed their displeasure with Walker’s no-tax pose in that same WisPolitics article.
Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said he regularly hears complaints from constituents that roads are crumbling.

"Spending less is not an answer," said Olsen, who has said he would support raising the gas tax…

Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, also has expressed an openness to raising revenues. She sighed when asked if she would accept more borrowing in the next transportation budget, though she said the guv's no tax increase pledge has backed lawmakers into a corner.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) also noticed what Gov Walker said, noted that Wisconsin’s roads were already rated 3rd worst in the nation by the U.S. DOT, and added the following statement today.
“Gov. Walker’s last budget failed to provide critical infrastructure investments that the people and businesses in Wisconsin deserve,” said Rep. Pocan. “Important construction projects have already been delayed. Our state should not have to endure dropping down to very last in the nation due to short-sighted budget promises the governor made while eyeing a presidential bid.”

“Last month, Congress finally passed a long-term, bipartisan Highway Funding bill. There is no excuse for not adequately funding Wisconsin’s highways, bridges and roads,” continued Rep. Pocan. “To follow Gov. Walker’s budgeting advice would jeopardize public safety and disrupt economic growth in our state which has already dropped from 11th to 37th in job creation on his watch.”
This transportation funding gap in Wisconsin is the direct result of what happens when you elect dimwits like Scott Walker who are more worried about what right-wing DC Bubble-Worlders like Grover Norquist and the Club for Greed think, as opposed to the needs of the Wisconsin taxpayers that voted Walker into office, and pay his 6-figure salary with those taxes.

Since Scotty’s hopes of an increase in revenues to free up money to be funneled into the Transportation Fund in the next budget aren’t likely to happen (in fact, I’d say revenues are more likely to be revised down than up by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau later this month), it’s going to be up to the Legislature to tell this foolish Governor to “DEAL WITH REALITY” when it comes to funding roads. And I it’ll likely take a lot of new faces in the Legislature to make that a reality, since the current GOP majority isn’t willing to take on the people who hold their campaign’s purse strings.

Hey Dems, here’s another issue to pound on for the next 10 months. And this time, don’t let these careless fools off the hook for what they’ve caused, like you did in November.

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